Tragedy spotlights the importance of organ donation

Tragedy spotlights the importance of organ donation

The tragic story of Maureen Oleskiewicz’s choking death during the Cubs game at Wrigley Field last week has put a spotlight on the importance of organ donation.

Published reports say the 28 year old junior high school teacher’s heart and kidneys were donated offering the gift of life to the recipients.

“Her heart went to a 14 -year old and so even in death she’s still giving,” her mother told CBS-2. “We have an angel upstairs watching over us now.”

As a physician and chair of emergency medicine at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Dr. Patricia Lee, says she’s seen the good that can come of such donations.

“It’s the biggest gift that can come out of a tragedy—to help others live healthier lives,” Dr. Lee says. “Anyone, of any age, can register to be an organ donor.”

Registration for the Illinois Organ/Tissue Donor Registry can easily be completed online, through the state’s Donate Life Illinois website or through the Gift of Hope. All you need is your Illinois driver’s license or state ID number, name, address, telephone and email address. According to Donate Life Illinois, just over half of the state’s residents have registered to be organ and tissue donors.

“It’s really very easy. I’m an organ donor,” Dr. Lee says. “I’ve made certain my family is aware of my wishes. That’s very important for everyone who registers.”

View More: The ultimate gift: Organ donation

Dr. Lee says some people may have reservations about donating because they may think they are too sick or too old, but everyone can donate. And you can specify exactly what you’d like to donate. Major organs that can be given for transplant are the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and even the small intestine. Tissue donations can include corneas, bone, major veins, heart valves and skin. And one donor, just like Maureen, can affect as many as 25 lives, says Gift of Hope.

The number of people waiting for a donated organ could fill a large football stadium— twice. And every 10 minutes, someone new is added to the waiting list.

Every day, 18 of them will die waiting, because of the shortage of available organs, says the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Read More: Nearly half of Americans willing to donate a kidney to a stranger

Dr. Lee says organ and tissue donation is a courageous decision for Maureen’s family, and families who make the decision to donate can find some comfort in life going on.

“Out of this tragedy, Maureen has touched so many people,” Dr. Lee says. “She’s still teaching, with her generosity and spirit.”

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.